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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Gerontology

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Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Gerontology

University of Southern California wins best online master's degree program in gerontology for value. According to, USC provides an 8.4% return on investment without financial aid, and a 10.8% return on investment with aid. The USC gerontology website states that the program has a tuition of $1,473 per credit, and a 28-credit unit program costs $41,244.

University of Southern California wins the award for best online master's degree program in gerontology for flexibility. The University of Southern California's online program in gerontology has an online class size of 15-20 students. Online courses usually require students spend 15-20 hours a week online according to the USC gerontology website, and the gerontology program may be completed in 18 months.

Career Support
University of Southern California wins best online master's degree program for career services. USC's career center lists professional organizations for gerontology, major employers, and other career-specific websites to aid gerontology students. Online students have access to job and internship search tools, audio and video tutorials, a career resource library, and other online career information.

Financial Support
Capella University wins best online gerontology master's degree program for financial support. According to the Online Education Database, 75% of Capella University's students receive financial aid. Capella University offers financial aid, scholarships and grants, and in some cases reduced tuition costs to online students.

Technology Support
Capella University wins best online gerontology master's degree program for technology support. Capella University provides course compatibility for Macs and PCs; a mobile app compatible with iPhone and Android devices to access a course dashboard, degree plan, Capella news, and financial aid alerts; and tablet use for some course materials such as e-books, online articles, and online discussions. Enrolled students also have phone and e-mail access to technical support.

Student Engagement
Iowa State University wins best online master's degree program in gerontology for student engagement. Iowa State University's gerontology program provides information about national and Iowa organizations in gerontology, and other gerontology resources, on its website. Graduate students also have access to Iowa State's Gerontology Honor Society, and the gerontology program's newsletter.

Disability Support
University of Southern California provides disability support for students who require accommodations, such as extended time on tests, enlarged print, note-takers, captioning, and assistive software. Students may register with disability services by providing disability documentation and registering online with Disability Services & Programs. University of Southern California wins best online master's degree program in gerontology for disability support.

Library and Research Support
Kansas State University wins best online master's degree program in gerontology for library and research support. Kansas State University's libraries provide online databases, digital collections, and journals for research, as well as research tools like citation aids and links to other libraries. Students may consult a librarian through instant message, e-mail, or phone, and may also access the FAQs page for featured questions on library use.

Learning Support
Capella University wins best online gerontology master's degree program for learning support. Capella University provides flexible and accessible course materials through audio and video course materials available through tablet computers and mobile phone apps. Online students have access to academic advisors to customize their individual career plan, and they can interact in online discussion with classmates, instructors, and alumni through the Capella Courseroom.

Faculty Credentials
University of Southern California wins best online master's degree program in gerontology for faculty credentials. All of the faculty at USC hold a doctorate and are frequently involved in gerontology research. The USC Davis School is accessible through Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube for updates on scientific discoveries biomedical research and educational trends, and other health information.

Alumni Engagement
Kansas State University wins best online gerontology master's degree program for alumni engagement. The K State Alumni Association provides CareerShift career tools and other K State career resources to Kansas State alumni. K State alumni also have access to Kansas State events, and receive benefits and discounts through an alumni association membership.

Prior Learning Options
Capella University may allow credit for work training, continuing education, or self-instruction programs, and may also provide transfer credit for previous academic course work. Military credit may also be accepted toward a Capella degree through Capella's Prior Assessment. Capella University wins best online gerontology master's degree program for prior learning options.

New Student Orientation
Capella University wins best online master's degree in gerontology for new student orientation. Capella University's free mini-course provides an overview of online learning at Capella University. Students become familiarized with Capella's programs, the application process, support services Capella provides, and financial advising and aid at Capella University.

Explore a Master's Degree in Gerontology

An online master's degree in gerontology equips students with the expertise they need to be effective leaders in industries that provide services for the elderly. Students enter master's-level gerontology programs from a variety of backgrounds, including the long-term care and assisted living industries, nonprofit or community-based services that target the elderly, businesses that market to older adults, and other areas. Students pursuing this degree are often managers or administrators within these or similar industries who want to build new skills or expand their prospects for advancement. Others may be seeking management or administrative positions in industries that focus on the elderly.

Many online master's programs in gerontology can be completed in one and a half to two years of full-time study, although program length will vary by university. Students with transferable credits from past graduate work may take less time to complete the program. Most online master's programs in gerontology will require students to have a set amount of experience in an industry working with older adults before they will be admitted to the program. Online programs allow students the flexibility of accessing their courses from their home computers, which is accommodating for the busy, working adults that attend these programs.

Class Curriculum

The curriculum in a gerontology master's program may emphasize policy development and analysis within the field of elder care, the aging process itself, program management with older adults in mind, administrative duties of elder care workers, and budget and finance tasks associated with running a business or organization that serves the elderly. Students will also sharpen their research skills with courses in research methods and statistical analysis in gerontology. Required course work varies significantly from program to program, but some courses you might encounter could be:

  • Health and Physical Aspects of Aging. In this course, students learn about the physical changes that take place in the human body as people age. Students also explore the socioeconomic factors that determine a person's ability to maintain their health as they age. The course may emphasize ways of promoting health and healthy habits in older adults, and diseases and disorders that are more common among the elderly.
  • Social Policy and Aging. This course surveys the various public programs and pieces of legislation that impact the elderly. Students look at the history of policies for older Americans and the political process involved in how policies are made that impact this population.
  • Marketing Aging Services. In this course, students learn effective marketing principles for organizations whose target market is older adults. Students learn about the interests and needs of older age groups, their demographics, and practical ways of putting marketing principles into action.

Students in an online master's program in gerontology will read and critically examine research in the realm of gerontology. Many programs conclude with the completion of a capstone project, in which students identify a real-world problem in the field of gerontology, develop a plan to alleviate the problem, and create a timeline and schedule for implementing their strategy. The capstone project showcases the student's understanding of what they've learned in class, including needs assessment and analysis, program management, and financial management. Some programs may require or encourage gerontology internships, which take place at government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other sites that primarily work with the elderly.

Building a Career

Those who graduate from master's programs in gerontology may go on to take up leadership positions in geriatric care management, assisted living centers, nursing homes, adult day care businesses, senior centers, organizations that provide elder housing or other services for older adults, or other nonprofit, government, or private-sector jobs that entail working with the elderly. Job titles might include senior recreation specialist, diet aides, elder care consultant, case manager, social worker, executive director of assisted living or memory care center, or community service/social service coordinator.

Many social workers work exclusively with the elderly. These professionals may need to be licensed or certified, depending on the state they work in. Social workers are projected to experience 20% employment growth between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average for other occupations; employment growth will be even more rapid for healthcare social workers, at 34%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Social workers reported a median yearly salary of $42,480, the BLS noted.

Many social and community service managers also work exclusively with the elderly, providing services such as adult day care, meal delivery, and more. These professionals are responsible for running the day-to-day operations of their organizations and directing staff and volunteers who provide various services to their target population. Employment is projected to grow by 27% between 2010 and 2020, and these managers reported a median salary of $57,950, the BLS stated. Remember, however, that salaries for people who work with the elderly vary greatly depending on your level of experience, the size and type of organization you work for, the region of the country you live in, and other considerations.